London

Bluestocking Books London Tour

On Saturday I went on a bookshop tour in Central London after being invited by the brilliant Lauren at Bluestocking Books. There are rarely tours on weekends, instead the tours are mostly during the week – as that’s when bookstores really need people coming into them – so this was a bit special as it featured five very different bookshops.

We started off in Cecil Court – home to many unique bookshops with rare and antiquarian books, maps, prints, and lots of other book/printing related items. I’ve been to Cecil Court before, but I’ve always been intimidated by the shops. The antique ones look super expensive and I always felt there’d be a Pretty Woman moment, with shopkeepers thinking I didn’t fit in – but I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. Lauren had arranged for us to have a talk with Tim Bryars at Bryars & Bryars and it was great to hear the history of both the shop and Cecil Court. He also talked about antique books, how they’re valued and how there are books that are hundreds of years old for sale for £30 so antique books don’t have to be as intimidating as we (or I) might think. There was a book of Persian poetry that looked gorgeous and I was tempted by it, but its price was closer to £350 which was just a bit out of my price range but it showed there’s definitely a wide range of books and prices to be found.

Also in Cecil Court we visited Watkins Books, a shop that focuses on the mind, body and soul with books on religion, spirituality and the occult. I had my Tarot read which was different. A friend of mine has done Tarot readings before but (no offence to her) the guy in the shop seemed much more knowledgeable about the whole thing. I’m not sure if I believe in Tarot readings and that sort of thing, though some of the cards I picked definitely had relevance to my life right now, but it was an interesting experience and I like to keep an open mind.

After Cecil Court we went across to the few bookshops still on Charring Cross into Any Amount of Books, a brilliant second-hand bookshop that I’d been to before. This is a really great value shop. All the books are in really good condition, and there’s such a wide range of genres and release dates. I went in the basement for the first time and this was the one and only place I bought a book – I was very restrained. The book I bought was Augustown by Kei Miller which will be my Jamaica read for my Read the World Project.

Then we had a short walk to Soho and to Gosh Comics. Now my personal favourite comic shop in London is Orbital Comics (because the staff are super friendly, and it feels like what you think a comic shop should be like in terms of its layout and atmosphere) but Gosh is a great shop. It’s much brighter with a more open-plan layout so it’s easy to find different comics and graphic novels with the single issues and all the Marvel and DC comics in the basement, and the staff are still awesome and friendly. I enjoyed talking to other people on the tour about comics and giving recommendations and finding new comics that I want to check out in the future.

The final stop on this tour was the most glamourous bookshop I have ever been to – Masion Assouline. It’s a bookshop with a bar and its focus is bespoke coffee table books (some of which are huge and all of them are beautiful) and vintage books and objects. There we had a tour from a woman who works there as she took around the three floors of the store, and explained what Maison Assouline was all about and showed us the different collections and what they print. It was a shop that I’d never normally go into, but I’m really pleased I did. I like the idea of a book being a focal point in a room so if I ever have the money I will one day buy a bookstand and a huge beautiful book from Maison Assouline and put it pride of place in my future house!

The best thing about this Bluestocking Books Tour was Lauren. She was really well-informed about the bookshops and the areas of London we were in and had clearly put in the time in to make connections with booksellers so both they and those of us on the tour got the most out of the experience.

The tour lasted about two and a half hours and that time flew by thanks to the company, interesting bookshops and a great tour guide. I’d recommend wearing trainers, or at least comfy shoes, as you’re on your feet for the whole tour, and maybe an umbrella because this is London and I was the one person on the tour who forgot you could never trust British weather! Still, a little rain never hurt anyone. It was a fun and informative few hours, visiting an eclectic mix of bookshops with a wonderful and friendly guide. I love going into bookshops but there’s something more special about visiting them with fellow booklovers, and going to bookshops I wouldn’t normally think of visiting. I will definitely be more confident and visit shops in Cecil Court more often.

I really do highly recommend Bluestocking Books and if I was free during the week I’d definitely be going on the themed tours – I really like the sound of the Comics and Illustrated Books tour. You can find out more about Bluestocking Books and book your place on tours here and you can follow Bluestocking Books on Twitter.

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L is for London

I love London. I went to university at the end of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly line so was less than an hour away from central London for four years. It was great. Even though I’ve always lived about an hour and twenty minutes’ train ride away from London, I never used to go up there that often till I was at Uni. Now some of my best friends live in London so I’m often heading up there to see them for the weekend.

While at Uni I’d go shopping on Oxford Street, head to Westfields for the day, go to see films at the BFI film festival in Leicester Square, and I’d just love to wander around the streets and find new and interesting things. I think my favourite place in and around London (so far) is Soho, I just love wandering those streets and finding cool shops or cafes, though Uxbridge still has a weird yet special place in my heart as it was my home-from-home for four years.

I used to work in London, kind of in between Old Street and Farringdon, and a couple of times there was a tube strike so I’d walk from London Bridge to the office and it was really nice crossing the river, and seeing the everyday parts of the city I wouldn’t normally see when sitting on the tube.

I love doing touristy things in London and I love seeing and doing the stuff only locals know about. I think it’s great living so relatively close to a capital city. I can go to shows in the evenings and still get home, I can go out with friends and then get the last train home. Not to still a phrase from Hannah Montana but living a bit over an hour away from London really is the best of both worlds.

London Bookshop Crawl 2017

Yesterday was the wonderful London Bookshop Crawl. Over 50 bookshops took part with discounts, freebies and goodies available and 1,000 people signed up through Eventbrite to take part.

Now I went to the first London Bookshop Crawl last year when there was a lot fewer of us, about 25-30 altogether, so we all stuck together in one big group. This year because of the amount of people it was a bit different. There were four groups of about 25-30 people that started off in Foyles and then went around London together, but the whole crawl was really a much wider affair where people could go off on their own or with friends and discover new bookshops together.

I was a part of group two which was led by the lovely Ruth and Michal. We started off in Foyles where I didn’t buy anything but I did give away 21 books and graphic novels to fellow bookshop crawlers. This worked out very well for me as it’s given me a lot more shelf space for new purchases.

We all walked to Gosh! Comics together where I did go a bit mad but it wasn’t so bad as there was a 10% discount on all books bought if you were a part of the Bookshop Crawl. There I bought Mockingbird Vol. 1, Saga Vol. 6, A-Force Vol. 0 and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’d been meaning to try Mockingbird for ages and I’m looking forward to it even more after the lady at the till said it was her favourite series.  (more…)

The London Bookshop Crawl aka An Awesome Bookish Day

Yesterday I spent the day going to many bookshops in London with a lot of book loving people. It was the London Bookshop Crawl which was organised by the wonderful Bex and it as so much fun!

Going into the Bookshop Crawl I didn’t know anyone. Bex had set up a Twitter list of the people who were going on the crawl so I’d followed them all to try and learn names and get to know some of them but really, I didn’t know anyone when I arrived at Foyles at 9:30am.

When I got there, there were already some people sitting in the café with hot drinks and pastries. After having a hot chocolate I went browsing the shelves of Foyles with Annette and Lauren, we talked about what genres we liked and recommended books to each other which was great. In Foyles I bought A Darker Shade of Magic and The Man in the High Castle – two books I’d been meaning to get my hands on for a while. I did start the crawl saying I’d only get one book per shop but that failed straight away! (more…)